Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Build your SolidWorks Toolbox... with free CAD models

SolidWorks Toolbox is a library of standard parts that can be fully integrated with SolidWorks Premium or SolidWorks Professional.  While essential for some SolidWorks users, it is also regarded as complicated and inconvenient by others.  The great divide is due in large part because Toolbox requires installation and configuration.  So is there a way to generate common toolbox-type models and avoid having to build and manage the Toolbox add-ins and configurations?  Apart from Toolbox, what alternatives are available to SolidWorks users for creating standard parts and fasteners?

Today, in addition to SolidWorks 3D ContentCentral, there are a variety of online vendors that readily provide common use CAD models for free.  As these vendors are well aware, this is a service that is provided to drive awareness of their products, and ultimately their sales revenue.  For the SolidWorks user, downloading free CAD files can be a very efficient method of generating these toolbox-type or vendor specific files, thereby averting the Toolbox installation and configuration scenario entirely.

Here is a brief and varied list of some reputable sites providing free CAD models for download:

It would be benefical to have a File Management technique already in mind prior to downloading your files, and after downloading you might also choose to edit the Property fields to your preference.  A practical suggestion is to arrange your SolidWorks Design Library to view and access your new personal Toolbox directly from the Task Pane.  Like many, you too may find that taking advantage of free CAD models will oftentimes save you hours to days of work, while you build a personal SolidWorks Toolbox without the burden of installation or configuration.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Packaging Design with SolidWorks​?... or The Box Builder

Have you ever considered that SolidWorks can be used for packaging and box design?  While it does lack some of the more intuitive aspects of packaging, the sheet metal feature set contains basic principles that easily translate to packaging design, albeit with some minor setting modifications.  Having developed several box designs utilizing SolidWorks, it is apparent that merging product design with packaging design is a natural fit in the product-to-market flow.  I have mentioned to SolidWorks Corporation on several opportunities that developing a packaging application similar to sheet metal would make for an interesting facet of the software and could potentially further extend and bridge SolidWorks into packaging engineering departments.

(C) The Box Builder
Recently we have seen SolidWorks enter the foray of cloud applications with n!Fuze.  However, while it does seem that SolidWorks is looking further into cloud based opportunities, we probably won't see anything dramatically pushed out that could potentially upset the current customer base.  In the meantime as Dassault Systemes continues to expend energy promoting 2D DraftSight, other companies are taking advantage of the apparent 3D CAD attention deficit gap.  With a dedicated focus on 3D structural packaging design The Box Builder is a company that has embraced structural packaging CAD with an eye firmly on the cloud.

Based in Asteasu, Guip├║zcoa, Spain, The Box Builder team has developed an incredibly easy-to-use online 3D CAD solution utilizing ModelMaker that combines design quality, a versatile library, and a user-friendly interface that doesn't require prior training.  Developed on ASP (Application Service Provider) cloud hosting technology, you do not have to buy the application, but rather you buy the right to use it through weekly, monthly or annual licenses.  This makes for an ideal arrangement in many ways.

The benefits range from those who might need it solely for short-term contract work, to a company simply desiring to free itself of IT dependent software setup and support (routinely needed with traditional in-house workstation or server licensed software), to anywhere in between.  Designs are able to be exported on common formats (CF2, PDF, EPS or DXF), and the designs are securely and confidentially saved within user arranged folders so that they can be recovered, used and redesigned as often as desired.  With direct savings in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and gains in Return on Investment (ROI), The Box Builder might well be the best choice for online structural packaging design currently on the market!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

SolidWorks Installations - What's in the works?

In the present atmosphere of being e-connected and with growing cloud based application acceptance, SolidWorks is investigating the feasibility of whether their customers would be interested in downloading all SolidWorks based installations.  This foray into potentially altering their standard delivery method of annual release upgrades from the shipment of boxed disks to that of downloads, seems on the surface to be a worthy topic for investigation.

In addition to the single license client, SolidWorks is looking into whether larger groups could even get by on receiving one disk for the entire group.  In all practical terms, transitioning to downloads for all SolidWorks based installations and upgrades makes practical sense.  The cost savings potential to SolidWorks and the environmental benefits appear obvious.  What isn't obvious however is what the client may be losing in ways that are yet unknown or unforeseen.

As technologies develop, we oftentimes experience greater dependency on many levels.  Considering the serious price extended for a licensed seat of SolidWorks, are you one who would want to keep a physical disk for any potential needs that might yet be unanticipated?  Or are you comfortable accepting an ever growing dependence to online connectivity?

SolidWorks Users have the opportunity to weigh in on this theme by means of the SolidWorks Usage Survey for Q2 2011.  In this manner, clients can communicate their current methods and installation preferences, which should facilitate and aid in steering any upcoming decisions.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Free STP IGS STL viewers ... from ideaMK

Of course SolidWorks can readily open STP, IGS, or STL file formats. However, if you simply want to see what a STP, IGS, or STL file entails without going through the extra steps of importing, then a CAD viewer can a great tool for quickly providing the visual design information you need.

(C) ideamk
If you routinely receive non-SolidWorks file formats such as STP, IGS, or STL, then you may benefit from the free CAD viewers now being provided by the up and coming software development team of ideaMK.  Based in Ohrid, Macedonia, ideaMK is displaying the business and marketing savvy that it takes to make a reputable name for oneself.  While offering their skills in a variety of capacities such as custom software programming / development services, off-the-shelf computer software development, web design; eCommerce and online marketing solutions, their approach to providing viewer freeware is to be commended. This is especially so because the list of freeware they make available is quite extensive.  Along with the CAD viewers mentioned, they also provide a variety of additional viewers for file types common to the graphics world.

All of this speaks volumes about a seemingly small company with sincere aspirations.  It is a clear and strong indication that ideaMK has a business model that involves a conscious measure of giving back to the business community.  Sure, there may be intrinsic motives involved in providing viewer freeware, but if anyone in the CAD community benefits from their support, then we should have good reason to be appreciative.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SolidWorks n!Fuze... cloud based file collaboration

Online sharing and collaboration for CAD designers and engineers may become easier with the SolidWorks Add-In application entitled n!Fuze, soon to be available in a public preview / beta launch.  Intended for smaller-sized companies looking to collaborate in the design process, SolidWorks n!Fuze delivers on all fronts of concern for the typical designer.

(C) DS SolidWorks
Developed on the ENOVIA platform, n!Fuze allows for sharing and collaborating designs and ideas securely with anyone you want, inside or outside of your organization, wherever they are.  That mix includes SolidWorks users and those who don't use SolidWorks.  As an Add-In for SolidWorks 2010 and 2011, n!Fuze is cloud-based and integrates seamlessly with no additional IT support, servers, or central administration to be concerned about.

While it should not be considered a PDM system as in the sense of Enterprise or Workgroup PDM, it does carry beneficial collaborative features that address the unique needs of the design process. These include commenting with files and projects, managing versioning of files, and illustrated dependencies in assemblies.  The arrangements of n!Fuze include a one month free trial, with monthly subscriptions available for purchase through the 3DStore.  Subscribers can then invite non-subscribers to collaborate for free, and all support will be from a community based forum.  Online storage capacity starts at 15GB, with an additional 50GB available for purchase.  As advertised n!Fuze looks to be easy to buy, easy to use, and accessible instantly from anywhere!  Sales presentations aside however, SolidWorks users are eager to see if this most recent foray into cloud based applications will prove to be a practical and reliable solution to design collaboration.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DraftSight 2D & Autodesk 123D... the new free market of CAD?

An interesting business dynamic is taking shape in the world of CAD these days, and it all is coming down to nothing, literally. Or shall we say, free!

Free CAD software is nothing new, however it typically is synonymous with low-end use and far removed from the major arenas of engineering or manufacturing reputability. That has changed in recent months. Earlier this year Dassault Systemes made available the general release of DraftSight, the free 2D CAD program intended to free the captive audience of Autodesk. Now Autodesk has announced they will soon be releasing Autodesk 123D, a free 3D CAD program that may be intended to break the bonds of loyalty evident in the world of 3D. Both business approaches seem to be built upon the age-old battle hardened precept of 'divide and conquer'!

Understandably, each developer is touting the capabilities and possibilities of what their respective software may accomplish. Also to be taken in stride is that those capabilities are somewhat limited due in part to the software being free. What isn't apparent just yet, is how this cost free aspect will shape the software decision making process for product development, say in three to five years. For the sake of this article, we will focus on how this changing landscape may affect a CAD business owner and entrepreneur.

As any SolidWorks CAD license holder can attest, the yearly expenditure for an annual license renewal is a cost that we simply anticipate and accept without much grumbling, since there is no room for negotiation. You either renew to the latest release thus minimizing your expenditure, or get left behind and place yourself in the position of paying the additional first time cost all over again when buying anew. For those with company departments where license fees are multiplied by the number of seats required, the cost burden is obvious! So as a CAD business owner, what if you could reduce your annual software expenses to zero and still more than adequately satisfy your client needs? Would you? Probably, if you could (1) quickly become adept with the new software interface, (2) ensure file compatibility with other major CAD platforms, and (3) manage your files effectively.

For any number of reasons, most CAD users can relate to their loyalty to a particular CAD platform, and that loyalty has been leveraged successfully for some time. So will we begin to see CAD software loyalty yield to the desires and sensibility of a free market approach? Will we see some measure of migration of CAD users crossing over the demarcation of SolidWorks / Autodesk simply because of the cost advantage that being free affords for either the 2D or 3D camps? Perhaps so, and it's not really too difficult to imagine. Especially so when taking into consideration that many small CAD business owners would jump at the opportunity to see their annual budget for CAD software drop from their ledger! Then again, loyalty might just keep many of us grounded until both ample evidence and simple economics prods us from our comfort zone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

New SolidWorks logo... a sign of the times?

(C) DS SolidWorks
Dassault Systemes has recently unveiled the new logo for SolidWorks. While curiously unheralded, this new logo speaks aptly about the product in terms of its joint relationship within the array of global business products managed by DS.  So it is not surprising then that the similarity in font among the products is readily apparent.
For years now, SolidWorks users as a community have displayed a large measure of confidence, support, and appreciation in the product, which is the tangible result of effective leadership and capable programmers.   Not to be overlooked is also the genuine interest ascribed by the VAR's with whom we interact with routinely.  First impressions aside however, new logo initiatives oftentimes indicate well thought executive efforts toward presenting a fresh, new approach to forthcoming product and marketing strategy.

Of course, many corporate business initiatives are designed to foster a dependecy on a product.  That is how a global business thrives, and to a humorous extent may even explain our relegation to the term "user"!  If the past is any indication of the future, then SolidWorks users should continue to see and experience a remarkable product tailored to their needs, along with integrated file management choice that meets and exceeds our expectations.  The business challenge for DS is to retain that well earned reputation of being a trustworthy corporate citizen, while walking the fine line of investor / user expectations.

Yes, it will certainly be interesting to see what the future holds for SolidWorks!

Friday, March 11, 2011

SolidWorks World 2011 presentations now showing... online!

For the SolidWorks CAD user who didn't attend SolidWorks World 2011 in San Antonio, Texas on January 23-26, you can now gain added insight on a variety of current user topics with the  SolidWorks World 2011 presentations now available online.
(C) DS SolidWorks
You will find a plethora of presentations within the array of these relevant categories:
  • CAD Administration
  • Customer Success
  • Data Management
  • Design Automation
  • Design Communication
  • Design Validation
  • Education
  • Modeling Essentials
  • Productivity Tools
The site is well arranged to allow for locating presentations by Presenter, Title, Category, or Weekday.  Be encouraged to look into these presentations, as these provide a great cost-free opportunity to enhance your skills and awareness of current user topics.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Recieve credit card payments directly... with Square!

For the CAD contractor, having a variety of methods to receive payment just makes for common sense. 
Reputable online payment solutions such as PayPal and Moneybookers are well established in the world of freelance work.  However until recently, many independent contractors may have been reluctant to handle credit transactions themselves due to banking contracts and processing fees.  That is no longer a concern with Square, co-founded by Jim McKelvey and Jack Dorsey in 2009.  The company is headquartered in San Francisco with additional offices in Saint Louis and New York City.

(C) Square
Square enables people from all walks of life to accept credit and debit cards.  While currently available only for a variety of devices on the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms, the clear advantage of Square is its simplicity, both in processing and function.

Square's credit /debit card processing fees are static flat rates, accepting Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover.  That's it!  There is no activation, gateway, monthly, early termination, hidden fees or any additional costs to use.  Square also does not require a contract upon sign up and since they only charge per transaction, it doesn't cost you anything if you don't use it!

The application process is quite straightforward, only requiring (1) a US based bank account, (2) a US based physical address, (3) Social Security number, and (4) EIN number (optional for businesses only).  Once approved, Square will provide a free card reader within 1-3 weeks.

Square's download app enables accepting cards by simply plugging the card reader into the ear phone jack, and then swiping the card.  Additionally, the app allows the option to accept payments manually by entering card information for phone, mail, or internet orders.

While receiving payment for your CAD work is always rewarding, it's now much easier with Square!  With a free card reader that accepts all credit cards, and with no hidden fees, commitments, extra equipment, complicated contracts, monthly fees or merchant account required, Square is a revolutionary method for the CAD contractor to accept credit cards directly!